New York, USA -In the 1988 uprising against the previous military dictatorship in Myanmar, student leader Nay Myint was imprisoned and tortured for his efforts.
“I gave a speech to the public on democracy, human rights and freedom. Soon after, the military intelligence services arrested me, and they sentenced me to life imprisonment. I spent 15 years in prison and 10 years in solitary confinement,” he Tell Al Jazeera.
Last weekend, the American activist did not address the crowd in Yangon, but addressed the Burmese community in New York City. The Burmese community in New York City gathered in Union Square to protest the February military coup.
This Power grab Ended a brief democratic experiment and dismissed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD), who won an overwhelming victory in the November general election; the military said it was fraudulent. The coup triggered a large-scale protest movement and brutal suppression, and the military was still unable to ensure complete control of the country after more than three months.
When in prison, Nay Myint received severe treatment, including physical torture.
He said: “They placed iron shackles between my legs for two years.” This caused permanent damage to his left leg. “But I believe I am in the right position. My people support me. I am a Buddhist and I am meditating to soothe my body. This is how I live,” he said.
A few years after his release, people began to mobilize and become the so-called 2007 Saffron Revolution, Which refers to the color of the robe of the monk who led the demonstration. Military rulers began to preemptively arrest activists who participated in the 1988 protests, so Nay Myint fled to the Thai border and settled in the United States in 2008.
According to data from Pew Research, as of 2019, there are nearly 200,000 people of Burmese descent living in the United States. From 2010 to 2020, Myanmar provided more refugees to Tukh America than any other country. Most Burmese settled in Minneapolis, but there are about 7,000 Burmese descent in New York, making the state the fifth most populous state in Burma.
Me Me Khant has been studying in the United States since 2016, but the 25-year-old girl remembers participating in protests near Sule Pagoda in Yangon with her mother during the Saffron Revolution, when her mother was a child.
“I remember hearing some gunshots, and then the police started beating people, so my mother and I ran away. Everyone was running,” she said. “I think the one thing that drives us is anger, and how many people have fled the country after 88 and 2007. This must be the final battle.”
Within the survivor
On the day of the coup, Me Me Khant celebrated a friend’s birthday on a beach in California. She has turned off the phone data to avoid distractions.
“I tried to show my friend a video on my phone. I opened the data and all these messages were flooded… I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “We know that people will protest, and we know that things will get ugly.”
After about three weeks of peaceful protests, on February 28 this year, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least 18 people. It was just a taste of the coming slaughter. According to the Aid Association, which tracks political deaths, by May 23, the military had killed more than 800 civilians, including dozens of children. Some victims were burned alive or tortured to death in custody.
“When the crackdown started, this was the most difficult part,” Me Me Khant said. “Every morning, we wake up and watch violent videos. There is a feeling of guilt, you always want to know what happened. I can’t get rid of it. Just been flooded by violent news for a few weeks.”
The terrorist incident in Myanmar inspired many people living in the diaspora to fight back as much as they could, including a woman named Shin who helped Nay Myint organize activities in New York.
“You have the guilt of the survivors. I think this is the best way to describe my feelings. Because your life has not really changed. You can still do whatever you want here. You can still stay comfortable. And safety. But my friends there are losing everything.” She said, out of fear of retaliation, she asked to use only part of her name.
Xin said that after the coup, she began to protest in New York and continued “every time.” She said: “The more they oppress there, we must ascend from here because we can ascend safely.”
Protests are held approximately every two weeks and usually attract hundreds of people, although Milk Tea AllianceShin said it was part of the Pan-Asian Democratic Movement and attracted about 3,000 supporters.
The U.S. has taken The most resolute opposition to the coup in the international community, Sanctions the National Administrative Council, the governing body established by the leaders of the coup-as well as many cabinet members, children of senior military officials and military-related companies.
But Shin hopes to take greater action, including making the United States and other countries aware of this. National Unity Government -Government in exile-as the legal government of Myanmar. Members of the NUG were appointed by a group of legislators elected in the November election and include representatives from the NLD, ethnic minority groups, civil society and other minor parties.
But NUG is also notorious for its Rohighya policy. In 2017, the military A brutal and violent campaign against most Muslim Rohingya minorities in Rakhine State, Drove about 700,000 people across the border into Bangladesh, which has since been called ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy were condemned for failing to adequately resist the atrocities. In 2019, Aung San Suu Kyi even defended the country against allegations of genocide in the International Court of Justice.
Earlier this month, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives grilled Myanmar’s UN representatives who were still loyal to the civil affairs, demanding that the Rohingya obtain citizenship, and the Rohingya representatives were appointed NUG.
California State Representative Ted Liou said: “Unless representatives of the Rohingya are included, the United States should not support Myanmar’s national unity government.”
Xin said that she understands why some people might not like the National League for Democracy, but compared the situation with supporters of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who voted for President Joe Biden to defeat his predecessor Donald T. Rumpu.
She said: “They may not like everything about NUG, but we voted for it.” She called this position “submitted.”
“To reject NUG is to reject and destroy democracy.”
Shin believes that NUG will soon issue a statement on the Rohingya crisis, which will satisfy some of its critics, but he urges foreign powers not to delay recognizing them.
In addition to holding demonstrations and lobbying the US government, the Burmese diaspora have also been raising funds.
With the support of the Myanmar Democracy Movement, Aung Moe Win stated that his organization was able to raise $100,000 in one day at a market in New Jersey during the Myanmar New Year.
He said: “I think this is the most money raised by any city in the world outside of Myanmar.” Another fundraiser is planned on June 19th, Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday.
One-third of the funds was used to support strikers of civil servants who refused to work for the military, but in many cases had lost their income or were evicted from government housing. One third of the resources are handled by parallel civil government representatives. The last part was donated to civilians displaced by the conflict because some major ethnic armed groups rejected the coup, which led to several civil wars across the country.
Like many people involved in the overseas democracy movement, Aung Mu Win was forced to flee the country.
“I left Myanmar and worked for the Thai Irrawaddy magazine in Chiang Mai. It was a big change. Once I worked for the Irrawaddy, I became an exile. I can’t go back again,” he said. Refers to the news media that has long criticized the military.
He spent a few years in Thailand and moved to the United States shortly before the Saffron Revolution.
“Even though we are far away, we are still doing our best to help the people of Myanmar. We can live our lives here; we don’t have to worry about anything,” he said. “However, we still care about this country very much, and we hope that the people of Myanmar enjoy the same freedom and rights as the United States.”